West Alabama teams find success on diamond

Published 11:08 pm Monday, October 6, 2008

It may be football season, but for a dozen West Alabama teens, this is the perfect time to develop their baseball prowess.

Following a successful 14U Babe Ruth campaign that concluded with a fourth-place finish in the Southeastern Regionals, the West Alabama team opted to utilize some of its autumn weekends to both build team chemistry and hone its skills on the diamond in a travel ball league.

“Chris Stewart and I came up with the idea at regionals down in Mobile from talking to everybody,” the team’s head coach Chris Cameron said. “It seemed just about everybody was doing it except us.” Stewart, who managed the boys during the most recent Babe Ruth run, joins Cameron and Mark Hasty, the manager of this past summer’s 13U boys, on the coaching staff of the travel squad.

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The first obstacle the players encountered was filling holes on its roster. Three of the players who made the state and regional tournament runs with the team this summer are now neck deep into the high school football schedule at Demopolis High School and, thus, unable to compete with the group.

As replacements, the West Alabama squad picked up Payne Hasty and Alex and Daniel Sturdivant. Hasty competed with the 13U all-star team over the summer with the Sturdivants tried their hand in American Legion ball.

“We wanted to keep them together through the fall,” Cameron said. “We wanted to keep them together through the fall and then turn them over to (Demopolis High School baseball coach Ben) Ramer for the spring and get them back again in May.”

The team, which has seen considerable success at the Babe Ruth level the past three seasons, has one more run at elusive Babe Ruth league glory.

The boys finished second in the state in 2006 as a 12U team before pulling in at the fourth spot as a 13U team in 2007. This season, they took second in the state before placing fourth in region.

According to Cameron, the players and coaches are hopeful the extra time on the field together coupled with the extra workouts will be enough to push the team over the top next summer while giving the players an added boost as they move forward with their respective school teams.

“I can see all of their arms getting stronger,” Cameron said. He explained that, as a travel ball team, the group has more time in between games. As such, it is able to devote more time to conditioning and strength building.

Those extra workouts appear to have helped the group thus far as it has won each of its first two tournaments of the fall.

The group, now a 15U team, took a tournament championship in Millbrook on Aug. 29-30 before winning a 16U tournament in Prattville over the weekend.

“We actually stepped up in class this weekend,” Cameron said of the Prattville tournament in which the West Alabama players committed only five errors in four games. “We actually prefer to play in 16U tournaments if we can get in. We know (our players) can go heads up with anybody their age.”

The team, which conducted fundraisers to finance its first three tournaments, next has its sights on an Oct. 25-26 tilt in Auburn.